• Edwin and George

The darker side of that flashy phone


‘Time keeps on slipping into the future’ – Steve Miller

When Brigid Schulte’s best-selling book ‘Overwhelmed’ was published in 2015, it hit a nerve. In it the author describes how it’s impossible to get everything done in the time available and how she’s not able to cram everything into her very busy day.

In her attempts to juggle work and family life, Brigid Schulte has baked cakes until 2 a.m., frantically sent important emails during school trips and then worked long into the night after her children were in bed. Realising she had become someone who constantly burst in late to meetings, trailing shoes and schoolbooks and biscuit crumbs, she began to question, like so many of us, whether it is possible to have a family and still have time to work. (Amazon Review).

Survey after survey shows we have similar experiences to Brigid Schulte.

For example, research by the Pew Centre finds that over 60% of working parents feel rushed and harried at some stage during the working week while 37% feel that way all the time.

But we actually spend less time in our work place than our parents. (Australian Government Labour Market statistics).

The biggest change, of course, is the blurring of boundaries between work and home lives – driven by the pull of laptops, smartphones and tablets. Who can resist the ‘ping’ of an arriving email or message?


Sad fact is, most of us are ‘on call’ for large amounts of our time.

And here’s a very worrying side effect that those of us with busy careers should reflect upon.

Recent research by the University of Michigan suggests that parents need downtime from their devices just as much as their children. ‘With mobile devices, parents have a personalised computer containing all of their work lives in their pockets,’ says Jenny Radesky who co-wrote the research. ‘Multitasking makes us less effective and efficient at anything we try to do concurrently, and parenting is no different.’

The researcher’s advice is that children learn smartphone habits from their parents, making it important to unplug in favour of screen-free playtime.


Certainly no one wants to be lecturing parents. But too many children are starting school unable to communicate effectively and we know that what happens at home makes a big difference. Parental phone and laptop time reduce the face-to-face interaction that is vital to children’s emotional and intellectual development.

Radesky recommends that parents think about their relationship with their phone (and their kids):

  • Instead of using the phone as a stress reliever, take deep breaths and go for a walk

  • Instead of withdrawing into a phone to avoid difficult family interactions, purposefully engage and confront issues

  • Instead of losing track of time, be aware of how much time has passed when you have prioritised your phone or social media over your kids.

Parents should prioritise mealtimes, bedtimes and set specific times for family members to unplug and single-task together.

Since children copy their parents’ behaviours, it’s wise to avoid actions that kids would be best not to learn: checking calls or emails while driving, using the phone when eating or ignoring other people while on a call.

Parents should be in the moment with their kids and let go, which will demonstrate an appropriate type of tech-life balance.

Radesky reveals that they even saw cases where nannies were asked to sign contracts limiting social media during work hours.

So, for those parents who are worried - we suggest reading the Brigid Schulte book or watching the movie ‘I don’t know how she does it’ (that the book was based upon). There are some good messages to reflect upon:


For those less concerned - there’s no harm reflecting on some of the material referred to in the University of Michigan research; for example:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Parents-of-Young-Children-Put-Down-Your-Smartphones.aspx

Our work-life balances are out of line and we need to be proactive to redress them.

Time keeps on slipping into the future video:


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